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Key Sustainable Development Terms Explained:

Sustainable development is understood to be about ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’.

The Brundtland Report, The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987

Sustainable development is essentially about thinking and acting for the long term. It is often mistaken to be solely about environmental concerns whilst it is actually primarily centred upon quality of life issues that connect environmental, socio-cultural and economic concerns.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

In 2015, the international community agreed core goals that seek to eliminate hardship in our communities, improve health and wellbeing, address quality issues in education, remove inequalities, build strong international relationships and democratic institutions as well as protect our environment. Governments from around the globe committed to implement and track the Sustainable Development Goals seeking to transform our world for the better by 2030. These UN agreed goals often referred to as the SDGs add meaning and depth to globally accepted definitions of sustainability.

The Table below depicts the 17 SDGs. If you scroll on the image the text defines their concern. All nations have committed to act and report progress against the SDGs as we move towards 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals Logo

Sustainable development is essentially about thinking and acting for the long term.

No Poverty Image

End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Zero Hunger Image

End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Good Health and Well-being Image

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

Quality Education Image

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Gender Equality Image

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Clean Water and Sanitation Image

Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Affordable and Clean Energy Image

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Decent work and economic growth Image

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Industry, Innocation and Intrastructure Image

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

Reduced Inequalities Image

Reduce inequality within and among countries

Sustainable Cities and Communities Image

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

Responsible Consumption and Production Image

Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns

Climate Action Image

Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts

Life below Water Image

Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development

Life on Land Image

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Peace, Justice and strong Institutions Image

Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels

Partnerships for the Goals Image

Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

Five Ps lie at the heart of the ambitious goals:
People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace and Partnerships:

Sustainable Development Graphic

The SDGs interpret sustainable development to be about: the livability of cities and the health of communities; addressing social justice, peace and inequalities; redesigning our education and economic systems; addressing climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss; building stronger governance, partnerships and accountability systems; as well as, engaging people in taking responsibility for their own future and, that of the planet.

Whilst the SDGs define the thematic entry points for sustainable development, three key principles are central to any approach to sustainable development:

i) the precautionary principle;

ii) intergenerational equity; and,

iii) the interconnectedness of all things.

The Precautionary Principle:

The precautionary principle enables decision-makers to adopt measures when extensive scientific knowledge on the matter may be unavailable or lacking. It emphasizes cautionpause and risk avoidance before leaping into decisions or new innovations that may be proven to affect people or planet detrimentally in the long term.

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